Veteran Democratic Congressman quits, unleashes stream of criticism for Democrat leaders in Congress
RWB News: Life-long Democrat Rep. Brian Baird, a six-term congressman from Washington state has never won re-election with less than 56% of the vote, is calling it quits. He tells the Wall Street Journal in a very telling interview that he wants to watch his twins grow up, and leaving congress allows him to speak out about the direction he sees the Democratic Party heading. This former Democrat congressman should be heard by all moderate Democrats and Independents… most Republicans already knew how the ‘Regime’ operated.
All good Democrats should be irate when Rep Baird said, when it came to the Healthcare Bill, “What the hell were we doing voting on this? I had labor groups come to me and insist the bill was so important, we couldn’t wait to know what was in it,” he recalls. “I asked them if they were handed a new union contract and told it was so important they had to agree to it without reading it, would they go along?” They continued to insist he vote for the bill and threatened him with a primary challenger. Wow, huh? Sounds like what many people were trying to say but was buried by the State Run Media.
Rep. Baird says “It’s been an authoritarian, closed leadership. That style plus a general group-think mentality didn’t work when Tom DeLay called the shots,” Mr. Baird says. “We’ve made some of the same damn mistakes, and we were supposed to be better. That’s the heartbreak.”
Mr. Baird, 54, is a loyal Democrat who voted for all of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislative priorities, including the stimulus bill, cap and trade and ObamaCare. But he admits all three have serious flaws.
Mr. Baird recalls that he was “very excited” when his party took control of Congress in 2006, but he saw ominous signs early on. Before the 2006 election, he says, Mrs. Pelosi had 30 members working on a rules package to make the House more ethical and deliberative. “We abandoned all that work after the election, and leaders told us we should trust them to clean things up. I don’t know a single member of the Democratic caucus who saw the final rules package before they voted on it.”
Democrats also watered down efforts to practice fiscal responsibility. “We initially had numbers a bit more honest than the Republicans—we at least included war costs in the budget,” he says. “Now we’re authorizing programs for three years instead of five in an attempt to pretend we’re saving money.”
“Obama decided we weren’t going to have a highway transportation bill because it might have required a gas tax increase,” he recalls. After passing a misdirected stimulus bill, Mr. Obama made the fatal error of pushing forward with other priorities: cap and trade, financial services reform, ObamaCare. Each became compromised quickly.
“You don’t get real reform by pandering to every special interest. With cap and trade we wound up with a bill that didn’t accomplish much, was enormously complicated and expensive.” Mr. Baird is especially upset that “good solid members will lose this fall because they took a tough vote for a cap-and-trade bill that never made it through the Senate.” He has told environmental groups that they lost sight of the goal of reducing carbon emissions by focusing on the minutia of regulation to achieve it.
For some of the shortcomings of financial regulatory reform, Mr. Baird blames the disillusioning battle over ObamaCare. “When the House had to pass the Senate version of health care unchanged, some members asked why should they invest the mental effort in mastering the details” of financial reform. Mr. Baird found parts of the bill mind-numbing.
Although he voted for it, he says he was troubled that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the entities at the heart of the housing meltdown, weren’t addressed. They have clearly exercised undue influence on Capitol Hill, he notes. “When I was first elected I was puzzled why they were holding events in my honor as a mere freshman. I asked myself, why is a federal entity so involved in political activity?”
When it came to the Healthcare Bill “What the hell were we doing voting on this? I had labor groups come to me and insist the bill was so important we couldn’t wait to know what was in it,” he recalls. “I asked them if they were handed a new union contract and told it was so important they had to agree to it without reading it, would they go along?” They continued to insist he vote for the bill and threatened him with a primary challenger.
“I warned my fellow Democrats that the insurance companies they were whacking could increase premiums just before the midterm election and blame them for it,” he sighs. “I pointed out that the major benefits wouldn’t kick in till 2014, but the costs were up front. I asked them, where was the political win? There was no real answer.”
“A lot of rethinking is needed” after Democrats take their drubbing, Mr. Baird says, especially since he anticipates “a huge number of retirements” from Democrats unwilling to serve in the minority. He proposes that the House elect an independent speaker who would help drain partisanship from the body. Britain’s House of Commons uses such a model.
Democrats, he says, will also have to recognize why they lost touch with voters. “Back in September, we had pollsters and strategists from my party tell members that the mass of people didn’t care about the deficit. The mind-boggling lack of reality coming from some of the people who give us so-called advice is stunning.”
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